We asked six of Canada's top adventurers to choose their top-picks for essential "Micro Adventures."
What is a Micro-Adventure? These are trips that are close to home, affordable, easy to organize and doable in short periods of time—but wild, original and challenging.
Here they are—start planning your year:
Adam Shoalts: Paddle to our Southern Point
Who: A Canadian Indiana Jones: archeologist, historian, anthropologist and explorer of unknown rivers, waterfalls and petroglyphs.
Where: Not Point Pelee or Pelee Island—Middle Island in Lake Erie (Ontario).
Why: Because you can’t get more south and still be in Canada—the actual border is 150 metres offshore.
What: Take a ferry to Pelee Island, head to Fish Point Nature Reserve at its southern end and beeline by kayak four kilometres to Middle Island, part of Point Pelee National Park. “This is definitely not for the faint of heart, given the severity of the storms on Lake Erie and how fast they pick up,” says Shoalts. Middle Island has an interesting history (First Nations, slavery, smuggling) and rare Carolinian forest, prickly pear cactus and plenty of cormorants, he adds.
Difficulty: Moderate; long crossing with potentially dangerous weather.
Time: Two hours, one-way.
Logistics: Pelee Island ferry service runs from April through December.
George Kourounis: Go Deep
Otonabee Region Conservation Authority
Who: The Canadian-born host and co-creator of Angry Planet also runs storm-chasing tours and documents extreme weather.
Where: Warsaw Caves Conservation Area, northeast of Peterborough, Ontario.
Why: Exploring caves that aren’t on the map.
What: “There are [caves] there that require some real exploration to find,” says Kourounis. “That’s the appeal.” You can start with the seven on the map and then wander, looking for other openings in the convoluted topography, full of unusual sinkholes, caverns and rockmills. Be prepared with helmets, headlamps, a partner and gear that you don’t mind getting filthy—because you will. There’s a campground right at the park.
Difficulty: Moderate to hard; confined spaces. “Claustrophobics need not apply,” he says.
Time: Couple of hours to all day.
Logistics: Drive two hours from Toronto on good highways.
Joan Roch: Running with the Boats
Who: One of Canada’s top endurance runners and Montreal native.
Where: The frozen St. Lawrence River between Old Montreal and the south shore.
Why: Running on the ice “feels like you’ve just landed on another planet,” says Roch.
What: Roch stumbled on this new medium when the Jacques-Cartier Bridge was closed last winter, forcing him onto the ice to get to work. On subsequent runs, “I explored a bit further upstream and downstream, having fun leaving the marina as the boats do, or running all the way to the locks,” he says. He suggests being creative with routes.
Difficulty: Moderate. Obviously slippery conditions, watch for open water and thin ice.
Time: 30 minutes to several hours.
Logistics: Check with the Coast Guard or Environment Canada for ice conditions before heading out.
Ray Zahab: Gatineau Gutbuster
Who: Ottawa-based ultra-champ, expedition runner and founder of Impossible2Possible.
Where: The 200 km of trails in Ottawa’s Gatineau Park.
Why: “Spectacular wilderness on the edge of the nation’s capital,” and one of the best fall leaf shows on Earth.
What: Running with overnight gear, set out on the Trans Canada Trail, right across the river from Parliament Hill. “You start in a total urban area and then slowly the park gets more wild,” Zahab says. Aim for the campground at Lac Philippe, maybe detouring on to the King Mountain Loop for lofty views. Total distance is anywhere from 30 to 100 km. On day two, explore into the wild Lac La Peche area of the park. “There are gorgeous beaches, technical trails and even caves,” he says. As a finale, chug into Wakefield and recover at the Wakefield Mill Inn & Spa.
Difficulty: Brutal (running with overnight gear!).
Time: Two to three days.
Logistics: Organize a car pick up in Wakefield.
Sarah Hueniken: Canmore Four Corners
Who: Alpine guide and one of the world’s top mixed and ice climbers.
Where: Peak-bagging from her home in Canmore, Alberta.
Why: Because they are there.
What: The village of Canmore is booked-in by four non-technical summits: Ha Ling Peak (2,048 metres), East End of Rundle (2,571 metres), Grotto (2,706 metres) and Lady MacDonald (2,605 metres). All are regularly climbed as day trips, but what about doing all four in a day? “It would be quite a feat,” Hueniken says. Start on the north side, knocking off the bigger verticals of Grotto and Lady Mac. Then cross the valley, using the Spray Lakes Road to kill some of the climbing on Ha Ling and EEOR. “Bonus points for travelling between them on foot!” she adds. According to Hueniken, about 20 people have completed the “Canmore Quad.” The first is said to be local Jack Firth—in about 20 hours.
Difficulty: Brutal. The official “Canmore Quad” is 53.71 kilometres and 4,791 metres of elevation (walking between trailheads) or 38 km and 3,000 metres of elevation (driving between trailheads). A few exposed sections, but mostly hiking.
Time: 24 hours or more.
Logistics: Established routes and easy driving between the peaks.
Jen Segger: Squamish Stairmaster to Heaven
Who: Coach by day, endurance athlete by night, mom all the time, Segger’s racing resume is long and illustrious.
Where: The best trail that no one hikes in Squamish, British Columbia.
Why: Waterfalls to entertain and cool on the way up to an alpine tarn full of fish.
What: Even Segger admits gaining 950 metres in 4.1 km is going to hurt, but the scramble to Echo Lake follows the waterfall-strewn descent of Monmouth Creek, offering a regular shot of cooling inspiration. And then at the lake, the view back across the estuary to the Stawamus Chief and Coast Range is world-class. But first you have to paddle across the Squamish River—Segger prefers a SUP, but a canoe will work. Bring overnight gear and camp at the lake, which is stocked with rainbow trout.
Difficulty: Hard—the trail is difficult to find and then braided and steep.
Time: Five hours to two days.
Logistics: Take the second side-road on the Squamish Dyke and paddle across the river to a group of old bridge pilings. The trail starts here.